Teacher supply and retention is an ongoing challenge for all schools; add to this the current unprecedented times in which we live and the impact this is having on traditional education and we exacerbate the problem.
COVID-19 is impacting the traditional hiring process in schools whereby short-listed candidates demonstrate a ‘lesson’ followed by a panel interview.
Most international schools have used video conference technology as part of their interview process as the ability to witness a ‘live’ lesson is not always feasible. Some schools have asked for a video capturing a potential applicant teaching in front of a class as part of the short-listing process but even this is not possible at this time with schools closed in many countries around the world.
There are some key aspects for candidates who are about to undertake an interview via video conferencing but I would like to focus on something that international schools have been doing and how this can assist schools today in their recruitment practice – the online interview.
To schedule an online interview, follow the same procedure as a face-to-face interview. Liaise with the candidate to agree a specific day and time that works for you both. Be sure to give candidates necessary information, like the name of the interviewer and how long the interview will take.
Give candidates clear instructions about the process. Exchange account information if you are conducting an interview via Skype or send candidates a link to log in to the interview. Schools should set up a video conference address specifically for online interviews. This should be forwarded to the candidate so that the connection can be established prior to the scheduled time. If you and the candidates are in different locations, be clear about time zones to avoid confusion.
Set up your equipment in a room that is quiet and where you are not likely to be disturbed during the call. Currently, you may be interviewing from your home so put up the ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the ‘office’ door.
Check that your equipment works. Be sure to test your video and sound.
Dress appropriately. This goes without saying but with so many people working from home now we still need the perception of ‘senior person in the school’ to come through. Be aware of your surroundings – the candidate will be looking at you but will also be glancing around the room in which you are sitting. Make sure that this reflects you and your personality.
Something that does not come naturally is to focus on the camera instead of your screen, so that it appears as if you are speaking directly to the candidate. This gives an important impression of making eye contact.
Having the ability to record the interview is worth looking into as in isolation you will conduct the interview without a scribe - it can be off putting for both parties if you are constantly trying to write notes.
These fall into two basic areas: The professional questions and questions that focus on a candidate’s personality. Good interviewers can often weave the two together so that questions can be expanded upon to assess both.
For example: asking a candidate to teach you something live on the call. This does not have to be relating to the teacher in a school environment but could be something as casual as a candidate’s party piece. I once had a teacher who was a keen amateur-dramatic actor try to teach me how to cry whilst another tried to teach me how to juggle.
Questions that focus on favourite characters from the big screen or novels often link to further questions that unravel a person’s character. Give me three words that your current students or Head of Department or parents would use to describe you? Are often an insight into a person’s character.
Professional questions should not be answered with a theoretical answer but should be answered based on experience. Phrase the question in such a way whereby you ask for examples.
Explain to all candidates that they will be subject to further background checks and references if successful at this stage.
Teaching interviews have become set in so many ways. Yes, there are important aspects to uncover about differentiation, classroom management, behaviour management etc. but there are only so many ways of asking the same questions and receiving similar well-prepared answers from candidates. Does this really uncover the kind of teacher that you want in your school?
It is entirely possible to make successful hires through online interviews. This is a practice that has been present in industry and international schools for many years.
The current climate has deemed it necessary to adjust from the norm; embrace the chance to broaden your horizons and experiences.